After thousands of years of coliving and cohabitation, humans and cats have developed a strong and special bond. Even so, socializing your kitten or grown cat is just a simportant now as it was in the very beginning.
The human-cat relationship might take many forms, and for each cat that’s completely integrated into the human family, there are many cats whose relationships with humans are not as close and as healthy as they could be.
Cats are independent and mistrustful by nature, and even if your cat goes along with you and your family, that might not be the case with other people. They aren’t as outgoing and friendly as dogs, and sometimes, their owners need to make some effort in order to socialize them.
If you are a cat owner and you have never had to socialize your cat, then you are really lucky. However, if you have a cat that could be more socialized, this text is for you.
Different Levels Of Cat Socialization
When it comes to cat socialization, there are three cat socialization levels. Those three levels refer to feral, stray, and pet cats.
Feral Cats And Is It Possible To Socialize Them
Feral cats are the least socialized cats. They have no interaction with humans at all, and they will avoid it at any cost. They were born to either other feral cats or to stray cats. This way, they never bonded with humans and never learned to trust them.
These cats live outdoors, and they don’t rely on humans at all. They feed on small rodents, birds, or other animals they catch. If they live in the more urbanized areas, they will often feed on leftover human food.
A feral cat will never be socialized, and it is best to leave them alone, apart from leaving them some food when possible. Still, kittens born from a feral cat can be socialized if they are introduced to humans from an early enough age.
Stray Cats And How To Socialize Them
A bit more socialized cats than feral ones, stray cats interacted and socialized with humans. Some of them even lived indoors and got lost or thrown away. These cats still remember having a positive interaction with humans, and they will sometimes allow being approached and even touched.
However, as time goes by, such cats can slowly forget their previous positive interactions with humans or replace them with more negative interactions. Such a cat will get less socialized, and it can even become feral.
On the other hand, socializing stray cats is possible if they are re-introduced with positive human contact.
As the most socialized cats, pet cats spend most of their time around humans. They are comfortable being touched and handled. Some pet cats live indoors while others live outdoors, but both groups rely on humans for food and protection.
If abandoned or lost, pet cats will turn into stray cats, which can eventually become feral. It is somewhat sad to see how our neglect can turn affectionate and loving animals into wild creatures.
While pet cats will show some level of affection toward their owners, they need to be socialized in order to get along with other pets, children, and potential visitors.
Domestication Vs. Socialization
Many people confuse domesticated and socialized cats. Feral, stray, and pet cats all fall under the domesticated cat category. However, as you could see from the previous paragraphs, not every domesticated cat is socialized.
This is the same for other domesticated animals, such as horses, dogs, cows, sheep, etc. The species might be domesticated, but if those animals lived away from people long enough, they would become feral.
How To Socialize Your Cat With Other People?
Socializing cats with people that aren’t their owners might be challenging. However, it is not impossible, you just need to understand and respect their boundaries.
In the best-case scenario, you would socialize your cat since it was a kitten. Kittens are usually more outgoing than older cats, and through playing activities, they easily bond with humans and other pets.
That is not always possible, though. For example, if you adopted your cat when it was already an adult with an established personality, you missed the chance to socialize it while it was still a kitten.
This doesn’t mean you should give up on introducing older cats to your friends and extended family. It just means that might be a little more challenging than when you are dealing with a kitten.
Don’t pressure your cat to play with strangers. Instead, when your friend or family member comes for a visit, tell them to ignore your cat completely and avoid making eye contact. Your cat will naturally become curious, and it will approach your friend/family member.
Once the cat approaches them, your friend should stay calm and maybe offer some toys or treat to your cat, but in an unobtrusive way. They should also keep acting indifferently, without making sudden movements.
Additionally, you should stay calm because if you get too agitated, your cat will become agitated too. This might ruin the whole encounter when your cat runs away.
Soon enough, your cat will get used to those other people, and it will start acting friendly towards them. You just need to take things slowly and stay calm so that your cat feels safe and assured.
Socializing Your Cat With Children
Cats can be great with children, but their friendship can end before it even started if you aren’t careful enough. Children can be intense and unhinged, and that’s not something that many cats would put up with. As a result, your cat might start avoiding the children, or it can even become aggressive towards them.
To avoid this, work with your children first. Teach them to respect the cat’s personal space and boundaries. This is also a great lesson for your children on how they should treat other people.
Cats don’t like loud and sudden noises. Teach your children not to scream and make such loud noises when playing with the cat.
Finally, and hopefully, obviously, your children should know that they need to be gentle when playing with cats. While cats can be as cute as plush toys, they mustn’t be squeezed and pinched or handled roughly in any other way.
Always make sure to be present during the first few encounters between your cat and children. Leave them alone only when you are 100% certain they bonded, and they can play safely.
Socializing Your Cat With Other Pets
Having other pets around your cat is a great thing because they can be perfect play companions. Still, they need to be introduced to each other properly. Animals are often territorial, and just forcing them to spend time together might be a bad idea.
Instead, allow them to get to know each other gradually. Make sure that each animal has enough personal space. It is also recommended that you keep their food and water dishes far apart so that they don’t fight for food.
Socializing Cats With Dogs
Cats and dogs are often seen as natural enemies, but they can also get along quite well. To make this happen, you need to socialize both of them from an early age. Dogs and cats that grew up along with each other had fewer problems socializing than dogs and cats that were introduced to each other much later.
Some dog breeds are more cat-friendly, while others are heavily influenced by their hunter’s instincts and may not be the best cat buddies. Keep that in mind when planning to socialize your cat with such dogs.
If possible, keep them in different parts of the house. Introduce them slowly to each other. Let them sniff each other. Allow them to retreat to their parts of the house.
Once they get familiar with each other, offer them toys and treats. They will gradually start to play, you just need to supervise them initially. Later, when they establish a good relationship, you can let them play without you around.
Socializing Cats With New Kittens
Introducing cats to kittens and vice versa can also be quite challenging. Kittens are naturally curious and playful, but they might be scared of older cats. On the other hand, adult cats might be annoyed by the hyperactivity of a kitten.
Some adult cats will eagerly accept the new kitten. Such cats often have some parental instincts that make them friendly toward small kittens. They will soon start to groom the kitten and accept it as their own.
However, there are cats that won’t be as accepting and friendly. Some cats may even get hostile toward the new kitten. This often happens with males that want to breed and will even try to kill any nearby kittens to ensure the females will be interested in mating.
To avoid this from happening, try to slowly introduce the kitten to your existing cats. Since cats rely on their sense of smell, try to mix the smells from your old cats with the smell of your new kitten.
Pet your older cats first, and then, without washing your hands, pet your new kitten. This will transfer the smell from your older cats to your new kitten. The older cats will recognize their own smell and be less inclined to reject the kitten.
If you have several cats, introducing mature cats to your new kitten is best when done gradually, one by one. If needed, keep the kitten in the carrier for more security.
How To Socialize Your Cat With Other Cats?
As already said, cats are territorial and oftentimes jealous. That’s why socializing two cats (or more cats) can be challenging, especially if both of them are adults.
Still, when introduced properly, they can become best friends. As with dogs, start by placing each cat into different parts of your home. Their bed, food, drink, and toys should be in different rooms.
This way, each cat will have its personal space where it will feel safe and undisturbed. Start introducing cats to one another by letting them sniff one another’s toys. This way, they will get familiar with one another’s scent.
Then, you can gradually introduce them to each other. Choose a neutral territory for this. Show both cats your affection by petting them and giving them treats. As a result, the cats will associate each other’s presence with pleasant things.
They will probably sniff each other a couple more times. After that, they will start to warm toward each other, and in several hours or days, you will be able to see them playing, cuddling, licking each other, and even sleeping together.
Socializing Different Cat Breeds
Different cat breeds have different personalities, and some can be socialized more than others. Some cat breeds are naturally more sociable, friendly, and outgoing, while others are timider.
For example, introducing Persian cats to other pets and people won’t be a problem because they are extremely friendly. However, socializing with timid cats such as Russian Blue Might be more challenging.
When socializing your cat, keep this in mind. Take the different characteristics of its breed into consideration before you start working on its socialization.
If you know that your cat belongs to an outgoing cat breed, you can just let it around the unfamiliar faces. Such cats will quickly make new friends, and you don’t have to worry too much about them being scared.
If, on the other hand, your cat belongs to a breed that is known to be shy, you need to socialize it slowly. Socializing shy cats can be more challenging and requires more patience.
The Role Of Different Cat Personalities In Socializing
We already mentioned that different cat breeds come with different personalities. However, no two cats are the same, even if they belong to the same breed. This means that even in the same breed, some cats will be more extroverted, while others might be slightly skittish.
How To Socialize Skittish And Shy Cats?
Socializing skittish cats might feel like walking on eggshells. Just one wrong step and they can get scared and run away. That’s why with such cats, you need to take things slowly.
For example, if you have a skittish cat and you want to introduce it to another human or pet, take some piece of clothing or another item that belongs to said human or pet. Give that item to your cat to sniff it. This way, the cat will get familiar with the scent, and you can take the next steps.
Next, take your cat to a neutral territory where it will be able to meet the aforementioned human or other pet. Introducing cats on neutral territory to new people or animals is a smart strategy. This way, your cat won’t feel like its personal space was intruded on.
If your cat gets scared, allow it to retreat to its personal space. If you try to force it to hang out, you will achieve the opposite of the desired result. Socializing scared cats rarely ends well.
Repeat the same process until your cat becomes more relaxed and starts showing signs of curiosity. Gradually, curiosity will grow into the first meaningful interaction.
After the first interaction, your cat will seek more interaction, and that’s when you know your cat has been successfully socialized!
Socializing Cats With Behavioral Issues
Not every cat is well-behaved and well-adjusted. Some cats suffer from past trauma or neglect, which can make them more difficult to work with. Some cats, on the other hand, are simply jerks, even if it sounds too harsh to say it like that.
Such cats can be socialized too, but they might never be as friendly as other cats. In such cases, socialization aims at making them less hostile toward humans and other animals.
When introducing cats, one aggressive cat can make the other cats aggressive, too, even though they never showed aggressive behavior before. That’s why you need to take things even more slowly than usual.
Just like with cats with no signs of aggression or other behavioral issues, start with introducing them through their scents. Then, slowly introduce them to each other, and if the situation becomes heated, take each cat to their room.
The whole process will probably last longer, but if you stay patient and reward good behavior, even the most aggressive cats will slowly start to change their attitude.
The Importance of Socializing Cats
When they see how much effort socializing a cat requires, some people wonder if it is worth it at all. Cat socialization is more important than you might think.
Cats are social creatures, and as such, they need regular social interaction with their human companions in order to stay healthy and happy. A lack of socialization can lead to behavioral problems, such as aggression or withdrawal, and can even cause physical health problems.
For example, cats who do not receive enough socialization may become anxious and stressed, which can suppress their immune system and make them more susceptible to illness.
If you plan to have several pets, including one or more cats, it is important that those cats socialize with other pets. This way, they will learn how to share their territory and your attention, and most importantly, they will make friends for life.
Similarly, if you have friends and family visiting your home quite often, you don’t want your cat to be scared each time they come. This is why you need to work on socializing your cats.
Socializing your cat will also make it more receptive to any future encounters, so you won’t have to go through the same process of socializing it each time they have to meet someone new.
Cats can be great companions to humans, and they can also get along with other animals pretty well. However, this doesn’t always come so easily, and that’s when you need to help your cat by socializing it properly.
When planning how to socialize your cat, there are many factors to consider. You need to know how to socialize cats with kittens, how to socialize cats with unfamiliar humans, and how to socialize skittish or shy cats.
As you can see, a cat’s personality and temperament will also dictate the way you can socialize it. More outgoing cats will be easy to socialize, while more introverted cats will require some patience.
Either way, socializing your cat is extremely important for its happiness and for your peace of mind. If you successfully socialize your cat(s), you won’t have to worry about it becoming scared or even aggressive when being introduced to unknown animals or people.
As the cat specialist John Bradshaw puts it: “Cats still have three out of four paws firmly planted in the wild, and within only a few generations can easily revert to the independent way of life that was the exclusive preserve of their predecessors some 10,000 years ago.”
This is why early and persistent socialization is crucial for well-adjusted cats that will be able to enjoy their lives as part of the human family. Follow these tips, and you will be well on the way to having a socialized and friendly cat!
Frequently Asked Questions
While it will be much easier to socialize a young kitten than an adult cat, it is never too late. With little patience, your cat can become socialized even if it is old and even if you have had it for a long time and never tried to socialize it before.
The more, the better, but if you don’t have much time on your hands, even 15 minutes per day could make the difference.
No, there is no such thing as too much attention, but giving attention is not the same thing as spoiling your cat. Make sure to give your cat attention as much as possible without letting them cross the boundaries of good behavior.
To socialize a scared cat, you will need to soothe it first. To do that, you need to be calm, avoid making sudden movements, and speak with a soft voice. Don’t look your cat straight into its eyes, and if you do, try to blink as slowly as possible.
Introduce them gradually to those other people. Don’t force anything, and let your cat approach other people first. Those people should know how to act around cats, basically – ignore them. Eventually, your cat will initialize some sort of interaction which can grow into a beautiful friendship.